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Och-Ziff Execs Charged with Spearheading African Bribery Scheme

Michael Cohen and Vanja Baros were “masterminds” behind the hedge fund’s alleged corruption, the SEC claimed.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Och-Ziff’s two former executives for leading and directing the bribery scheme involving African government officials.

Michael Cohen, the hedge fund’s ex-chief of the European office, and Vanja Baros, an investment executive who worked on African deals, were the “driving forces” behind the alleged crime, the SEC claimed.

“Cohen and Baros were the masterminds of Och-Ziff’s bribery scheme that improperly used investor funds to pay bribes through agents and partners to officials at the highest levels of foreign governments,” said Kara Brockmeyer, the chief of the SEC’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

According to the SEC, Cohen and Baros’ “misconduct” violated the FCPA by not only “inducing” the Libyan Investment Authority sovereign fund to invest in Och Ziff’s funds, but also paying bribes to “corruptly influence” officials in Chad, Niger, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The two charges come after Och-Ziff paid a large settlement of more than $400 million regarding these violations last September to the SEC and the Department of Justice.

“This has been a deeply disappointing episode,” Daniel Och, Och-Ziff’s CEO, said in September. “This conduct is inconsistent with our core values and not representative of our hundreds of employees worldwide, who are dedicated to serving our clients with the utmost integrity. We have learned from this experience and taken significant steps to strengthen Och-Ziff.”

The SEC said it is pursuing “monetary penalties” against Cohen and Baros.

Related: Och-Ziff to Pay $400M to Settle Bribery Charges